There may be a reason some students cannot pull themselves out of bed or plaster a smile on their face when the fall and winter seasons hit.
Students who may feel depressed and less motivated during the cooler months may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder.
SAD is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year, said Jackie Nguyen, a senior staff counselor at the University Counseling Center.
“SAD is also referred to as ‘the winter blues,’ because it typically begins during the fall and winter months, and subsides during springtime,” Nguyen said.
Although Erin Smith, a sophomore animal sciences major, has never heard of the disorder, she thinks it is probably a common occurrence among college students.
“When the weather changes and the days are cloudy, you just want to see the sunshine, so I can definitely see students affected by it,” she said.
Students diagnosed with SAD have experienced a two-year consecutive pattern of depression episodes between the months of September and December and then remission around April or May, Nguyen said.
“Some symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder include moods of depression, lethargy or a decrease in energy levels, less enjoyment for once enjoyable activities, sleep disturbance and a change in appetite,” she said. “All of which may have a great impact on students’ schoolwork and social activities.”
SAD is most prominent among females, especially young adults and college students, Nguyen said.
“Those who are less likely to take care of themselves are also more susceptible to the illness, and it is more difficult for them to rebound from it,” she said.
The UCC treated 24 percent of the student population for depression last year, and many had been experiencing symptoms similar to those of this disorder.
Once students have been evaluated and diagnosed with SAD, many treatments are offered to help them try to overcome their depression.
“Light therapy, in which full-spectrum light bulbs are used to provide positive aspects of sunlight that the winter months lack, is one form of treatment suggested,” Nguyen said, adding that “a combination of counseling and medication, such as anti-depressants, is perhaps the most effective form of treatment.”
Some students may experience the symptoms of the disorder but do not take the action to treat it.
“I am definitely affected by the season change,” said David Kingston, a senior accounting major. “I hate gloomy weather and need to see the sun.”
Kingston suffers from severe headaches and exhaustion around the fall months and then again during spring.
“I think that this is due to the season change in Colorado,” he said. “When I lived in Connecticut, where the season change is less rapid, this did not happen.”
Although Kingston is affected mentally by the season transition, he does not let it get in the way of his schoolwork.
“I do get very worn out, but I think missing class would be the worse thing you could do,” he said.
Kingston said staying in bed will not help students who may have the same problem, or who may be suffering from SAD, to get though it.
“If a student thinks they may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder due to recurring depression, they should come to the counseling center for a free and confidential evaluation,” Nguyen said.
The University Counseling Center is located in the basement of Clark building C, Room C-36, or students can call 491-6053 for more information.